Former Anaheim elementary school teacher sentenced to 2 years in prison for possessing child pornography – Orange County Register

Feb 6, 2024 | Canyon Crest Guide Newspaper | 0 comments

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SANTA ANA — A former Anaheim elementary school teacher and high school wrestling coach was sentenced Monday to two years in federal prison for possessing child pornography.

Richard O’Connor, 45, of Anaheim, pleaded guilty May 15 to a count of possession of child pornography.

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O’Connor’s attorney, Josef Sadat, argued for no prison time while prosecutors and probation officials recommended five years behind bars.

U.S. District Judge David O. Carter noted support O’Connor received in letters as well as the defendant’s “virtuous” life outside of the crimes. O’Connor had about two dozen supporters in court Monday.

Sadat detailed O’Connor’s difficult upbringing to explain why the teacher joined a social media group displaying child pornography. Sadat said his client was molested as a 9-year-old and that his mother was at times neglectful and his father would leave pornographic magazines around the house. As a result, O’Connor grew addicted to adult pornography, his attorney said.

Sadat said two experts concluded O’Connor was not a pedophile and was a low risk to re-offend. O’Connor was also “extremely cooperative and forthcoming” with authorities since his arrest, Sadat said.

O’Connor tearfully recounted how his life changed when he and his wife were finally able to conceive a child two years ago.

O’Connor started teaching when he was 23, he said.

“So my whole adult life I was someone else’s parent,” he said. “I liked being a father figure.”

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O’Connor said after his arrest he started seeing a therapist who helped him talk about childhood trauma that he had suppressed.

“Since April I’ve been away from my family,” he said, adding he is working in the restaurant industry in the Big Bear area.

“I still want to help people,” even though he now is prohibited from teaching or aiding kids, he said. He also wants to continue to be a presence in his toddler son’s life.

“I know it’s going to be really hard for him growing up, but I really want to be there for him as a dad,” he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melissa Sedrish Rabbani read a letter into the record from the father of two children who lived with O’Connor, who married the man’s ex-wife. The Orange County Fire Authority firefighter recounted what he characterized were “inappropriate” moments his son had with O’Connor.

The father said O’Connor spent a weekend with the firefighter’s son in Big Bear alone in 2020 when the boy was 11. The father also said he grew concerned when O’Connor would frequently text with the boy about playing online video games together.

On another trip the son had with O’Connor the boy sent his father pictures of pastries shaped like genitalia, the firefighter said. The father also said O’Connor regularly viewed R-rated movies with the boy.

Sadat emphasized that child protective services interviewed all of the students O’Connor interacted with as an educator and he was “cleared” of any wrongdoing with students.

Carter repeatedly emphasized the otherwise “virtuous” life O’Connor has lived.

The judge added that he “finds your remorse has been extraordinary.”

But, Carter said, he could not justify no prison time because of the nature of some of the images found on O’Connor’s device. One of the images was of a boy 7 to 9 years old with hands bound.

“This is a line that cannot be crossed,” Carter said.

Carter gave the defendant until April 19 to report to prison.

O’Connor will be on supervised release when he gets out for up to 20 years. He could have the last five years eliminated if he obeys the terms of release.

Carter ordered the defendant to register as a sex offender.

O’Connor previously worked as a fourth-grade teacher at Crescent Elementary School and was a volunteer boys’ wrestling coach at Canyon High School in Anaheim, according to federal prosecutors.

Investigators found at least 81 videos and 158 images of child pornography, some of which included infants or toddlers as well as violent material, prosecutors said.

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